Steve Blake Sinks Rockets at the Last Second

Darius Soriano —  November 7, 2013

Sometimes it is better to just enjoy the moment and skip the analysis. Steve Blake’s last second shot is one of those moments.

Whether the Lakers’ players publicly admit to wanting this game a bit more than the others doesn’t really matter. The joy on their faces after Blake sunk his game winner says it all. After letting a big first half lead slip away with some dreadful second half play and the Rockets finally putting in an effort on both sides of the ball, the Lakers came from behind to steal a much needed win on the road.

The game wasn’t pretty. Pau Gasol seemingly used up all his legs trying to push Dwight Howard off the post, leading to a dreadful shooting night. Steve Nash had a good first half, but struggled in the second with his shot and in creating for others. The bench did their best to try and pick up the team, but besides some timely shot making and a few hustle plays they mostly just tugged on the back of the Rocket’s shirts as they tried to run away from them and take the game they’ll probably kick themselves over losing.

But, really, the only thing to take away from this game is in the video above. Blake came through when his team needed him the most. So while the Lakers could have easily kicked themselves for giving away a game they controlled most of the night, they head to New Orleans riding the high of a last second win. A win that, for all the other little things that mattered, they can thank Steve Blake for.

Darius Soriano

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56 responses to Steve Blake Sinks Rockets at the Last Second

  1. Sometimes it is better to just enjoy the moment and skip the analysis.

    Good call.

  2. Lakers are 2-0 when I have said they will get creamed.
    Also, not only did they win – but they did it with the Hack a Dwight. Also saw DH and JL in a “discussion” walking off the court postgame.
    Lakers could not have scripted it better.

  3. I know this Lakers team really isn’t very good, but this young season has already produced two games I’ve enjoyed far more than any game I can remember all of last season. When that inbounds pass went right past a looking-the-wrong-way Steve Nash, is there a single player on last year’s roster who could have run that ball down? Remember Jerry West saying that the Lakers last season would never win a 50/50 ball (and was right)? But this year, pretty much anyone on the floor other than Pau or Nash himself could have chased it down. Watching them win, in large part due to DH’s swiss-army-knife of ineptitude (terrible post ups, missed defensive assignments, charges, missed FTs, goofy grins, blaming Jeremy Lin for.. what exactly at the end of the game?) makes for purple and gold hued schadenfreude of the highest order

    The Lakers are dead. LONG LIVE THE LAKERS!

  4. I love how we are able to win against the teams we need to beat like the Clippers.

  5. Take a look at the replay– watch Lin’s reaction after Blake hits the shot. Immediately, he gestures at someone with both hands in an ‘are you kidding me?!’ kind of way, clearly upset that Howard or Beverly didn’t rotate on the play. Perhaps that’s what made Howard go off on him after the Lakers won….

  6. Nice to see the Lakers take a road win against a good team. Great to see them play together and for each other. Fun to see them trying so hard. Beautiful seeing Blake hit that last shot with Howard making the late rotation. Of course Dwight then turned to the closest teammate, put his hands up, and made it clear someone (besides himself) screwed up. Where have I seen that before? Just call me Sargent Schadenfreude.

  7. I heard from a friend who washes Dwight car that after the game Dwight asked the Rockets owner to release him from his contract so he could take a job at Sams Club as a greeter. He said it sounded really fun and there was no pressure.

    Houston owner is considering it.

  8. Gotta love the attitude of everyone on the Lakers. I am more of a basketball fan with roots in the Lakers era than a blind and fanatic Lakers fan, and I had a really hard time rooting for the Lakers last year, even after my all-time favourite player joined the team (Nash).

    This years bunch is just great. They aren’t very talented, but they support each other and fight for every little chance they have. If Nash, Gasol and Kobe can get fit at the end of the year, there might be a little spark, a tiny bit of a punchers chance to make a run.

  9. In seasons past, as a Lakers fan, I tend to over-expect the Lakers to at least win a championship.

    This season, my expectations is very guarded and for some reason, I have been enjoying the game more than I imagine.

    I jumped happily for every hustle plays, for every made 3pts, which in seasons past, I expect them to do so from the get go. When they did, I felt ok, but when they didn’t, I am furious.

    This season has brought me joy, simply because I didn’t expect them to win games.
    So when they do, it felt so much better.

    I am just happy now as a Lakers fan because we played like this while still holding our ultimate weapon. Can’t wait until Kobe returns.

  10. Houston you have our last year’s problem. :))

  11. the other Stephen November 8, 2013 at 2:08 am

    i took mid-wilshire’s cue and stayed up till 2. i regret nothing.

  12. Dwight:”WE need to shoot free throws better”him 5-16 the rest of the team 78%. LOL

  13. A win that … they can thank Steve Blake for.

    * And also Parsons for inbounding the ball to Dwight at around the :54 second mark; subsequently putting him at the line with Houston up 2 ..
    * And of course, Dwight, for missing the 2 free throws (among countless others in the 4th qtr) from the aforementioned inbounds that could’ve put them up by 4 pts and possibly, the game out of reach for the Lakers.

    Don’t mind me Darius, just wanted to add in a couple of the “little things that mattered .. ”

    The individual who should be feeling the most elated about last night’s victory is Pau. If not for SB’s game winning three, the narrative would be totally different this morning and I can guarantee – regardless of his solid D – not to Pau’s liking.

  14. The video commentator says Steve Blake was wide open. Anytime you have Dwight Howard running at you with his arms up, there is pressure. I think Steve showed remarkable ice-in-his veins.

    And, thank you for this community. The perspective here has lifted has pushed back my feeling of doom with some plain enjoyment. As an ex-pat, it means a lot.

    GOOOoooOOOOO STEVE. And GOOOoooOOOOO LAKERS!!!

  15. On offense, Pau was, admittedly, pretty deplorable, and seemed to shrink from the moment a bit. However, LA doesn’t win this game if Pau hadn’t done such a good job throughout the game keeping Dwight in check, one-on-one, with very limited help from anyone. Pau repeatedly exposed Dwight’s lack of a post game. Had I not seen the same thing happen more times than it should have last season, I would be saying that Dwight’s 15 and 14 was the least impactful 15 and 14 I’ve ever seen.

  16. Have a comment in moderation about Pau’s good D on D12, which helped offset Pau’s bad “O”–but one last point…It’s a small sample size, but don’t you have to include Jodie Meeks in the discussion of “most improved Laker?” He’s averaging over 12 points on 51% shooting and an 18.23 PER (for those who like advanced stats) and has scored in double figures in 5 of 6 games.

  17. The bench was HUGE again! Meeks 18; Johnson 16; Farmar 11 & 7 ast. Great team work by the Lakers. This season will be like a roller coaster; enjoy the ride. Go Lakers!

  18. Just a quick comment on Pau — I know the guy is “overpaid” when considering compensation vs results and I know the guy just drives lots of Laker fans crazy with what appears to be his lack of strength and toughness, but I was impressed by his commitment last night to deal with Dwight and do some of the dirty work that kept Dwight out of rhythm. Dwight had to by hyped up and would probably have loved to have destroyed Pau himself, but the Spaniard hung in.

    Sometimes this phase of Pau’s career reminds me a little of watching Kareem towards the end and the kinds of criticism he weathered (I am in no way saying Pau is as good as the Captain).

  19. As Kurt once said – enjoy the process, because you may not get the result you would like. That not only describes the season, but also last night.

    I was so happy the first half, but I had some real fear in my heart – we are a young, inexperienced team and those types of teams often have a real hard time in the 4th qtr. Well we had a tough 2nd half, but pulled it out at the end. Now life is great. Last year San Antonio wasn’t able to do that in the 6th game of the finals.

    We were defending by fouling and I think the refs started calling our attitude and not the facts on the floor. Young teams usually fold in that situation, but we were able to survive – without Kobe, no less. This is not just a statement game against Dwight; it is a statement game for all the youngsters on the team. They don’t have to rely on Kobe – haven’t done it yet this year – and that bodes well for some games later on.

    On the down side – it sure looks like Pau needs something. Sure he was playing Dwight well – he has done that throughout his career – but he really seemed mentally tired last night and that doesn’t look good for the future.

  20. HOUSTON! WE HAVE A PROBLEM…. $100 million for late game free-throw clanks. Houston fans are suffering the same frustration as we had last year. Olajuwon can teach DH all the post up moves, and ballet-like spin moves….. But I wonder can he ever make a winner out of a whiner.

    Lakers pride! I love it.

  21. Six guys scored between 11 & 18 points each, 36 FGM on 26 assist, guys having fun. A quality win.

  22. I love Steve Nash’s bear hug on Lin on that last play! Lin wasn’t going anywhere. That was a pure vet move. Put it on the whistle happy refs to decide if they want to call it. Luckily they didn’t. I’m glad to see the Lakers finally get a road win. If only they could play nemisis teams like the Clippers and Rockets every game!

  23. the fuselage that is now houston’s problem; rocket howard: Karma !

    the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same: Karma !!

    i saw it on the faces of rocket howard’s teammates throughout the game: Karma !!!

    will this ever end? hope not: Karma !!!!

    Go Lakers

  24. walking on air today!

  25. Had to come back here this morning to see if that win was real or a dream.

    Was Kate Upton on the team last night ? Oh wait that was a dream.

    Great foul Pau and shot Blakesanity!

  26. I loved seeing the Rockets lose in the same way the Lakers would lose games last year. Teams would keep it close, then foul Dwight, and he’d stink it up from the free throw line letting them squeak out a victory. Great shot by Steve Blake, great team win. This team is right where I thought they’d be before the season so here’s what I think about all the Laker hate. http://www.wetheopinionated.com/editorial-laker-hate.html

  27. and that bodes well for some games later on.

    Doubtful. Like I said before the game, statement games are usually a mirage. Howard probably wanted to make a statement last night, and he didn’t. The Lakers deserve a lot of credit for winning that game, and MDA deserves some props as well–called a good set at the end, and the team didn’t buckle in an emotionally charged situation against a more talented opponent. For all the hits MDA takes here, he should get credit when something works. But IMO it would be very unwise to place much or any long-term analytical weight on it. As Darius suggested in the preview, the Lakers have some pretty good role players, and for the Lakers to win, they need to rely on those guys to beat their career norms. When 2 or 3 or more of them do that–and last night Johnson, Meeks, and Blake all did exactly that–and when the 3s are dropping, the Lakers have a pretty decent team. But as I said late in preseason, while the bottom half of the Lakers’ roster is much better than it was last year, the team doesn’t really have a top half anymore, given where Pau and Nash seem to be. Kobe obviously can help with that, and I hope he does. But even that is uncertain at this point.

  28. They don’t have to rely on Kobe – haven’t done it yet this year ..

    True indeed Craig W. But the question then becomes, let’s see if this remains the case upon Kobe’s eventual return?

  29. To be fair Tra and Craig W. They have struggled to score at times precisely because they don’t have a Kobe to rely on. The Spurs game immediately comes to mind. If this team can at least be .500 when Kobe returns, then they have a shot at the second season and, heck, maybe a first round win.

  30. Let the record show that MDA actually outcoached someone last night.

    His Hack-a-Howard strategy not only put a very shaky Dwight on the line in crunch time but it took Harden completely out of the game and it disrupted Houston’s flow…big time.

    Also, I like the call at the end of the game. D’Antoni put the ball in the right person’s hands–Steve Blake. Blake had been fairly hot (especially early on) and he was quick enough to get open and get his shot off.

    Good call.

    And a good win.

    One final note: the Lakers are now 3-3. I did not anticipate this.

  31. one game does not make mchale a bad coach, and it’s always easy to armchair quarterback, but Mchale’s mistakes and the body language by lin and dwight…doesn’t look good for mchale. As much as I dislike MDA, Mchale is not an upgrade, even if on paper there’s more talent to play with. And is Steve Nash that strong that Lin can’t fight through Nash holding him? Lots of questions. Nice win and nice play diagramming by MDA. Junior must be smiling.

  32. Great play by D.A….Less Johnson/Williams’s and more Kaman!!!

  33. I also like MDA’s putting Wes Johnson (who had a very good game, I thought) on James Harden down the stretch. I’ve been recommending that MDA use Wes Johnson to guard the other team’s best wing player. He’ll probably have to do it again because these guys have been scorching us.

  34. Loving this win, and what a great game winner by a gutsy guy who’s had a challenging time in LA.

    DH sure seems to be a chemistry problem, doesn’t he? On the other hand, it took the heat a season or more to gell into a Championship outfit.

    However, McHale already seems to be out of patience with Howard. After the Rockets lost to the Clips, McHales comments had to be worrisome to Rockets fans who are paying attention.

  35. I completely agree mid-wilshire. Wes Johnson was probably the second best player on our team last night. Now if coaching staff can teach him how to shoot a little marion flipper shot, it would really help his game.

  36. the other Stephen November 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

    trianglefan, for as much attention jeremy lin is getting for not appearing to fight hard through the screen, in the heat of the moment and half-expecting a teammate to switch, i wouldn’t want to allow steve nash to break free for a three either.

  37. According to kevin ding, mda diagrammed the play for steve nash. nash and pau switched it up and opted for blake based on the rockets defensive scheme. If you need a 3 to win, you know the refs are not going to a call a foul away from the shooter unless it’s something crazy. It’s very easy to armchair quarterback, but I thought Mchale didn’t make that clear to his team. You don’t let them shoot the 3. It’s that simple – and I understand it’s not that easy to execute when you’re really tired at the end of a game. But Lin should have known better. You run over Nash if you have to since he’s got you in a bear hug. If you steamroll Nash because he’s holding you, the refs would let it go and Nash is not getting up in time to take the shot.

  38. Meeks has been a pleasant surprise. He still has issues,but is more assertive with positive energy.DH did rotate on Blake,he was just late, and then put the blame on Lin.

  39. Couple of observations – Lakers have had a REALLY tough schedule so far. To go 3-3. Well….I would have been okay with 3-3 WITH Kobe in the line up. 4 Definite WESTERN playoff teams – not some Eastern Conf lower seed pushovers. 1 more Western Conf bubble playoff team (DAL) and 1…. well, eastern conf lower seed pushover.

    One more thing though – Lakers have been blowing leads built in the first half …almost every game. But no body is commenting ….”oh …they were playing the right way the first half then in the 2nd half X players selfish play doomed them…” But as soon as X player returns, you know who Im talking about….these same games …people will be writing the commentary as if it was solely his fault.

    You heard this prediction here first.

  40. Trianglefan-Indeed, it was the veteran’s on the team that proceeded with a broken play.

    Not sure if this bears any weight in Lin’s inability to break free from Nash, but I thought I saw a segment on TWC that Nash and Lin worked out together this summer.

    I’m quite sure that the sequel games against the Clippers and Houston will be quite different, however it feels good to get the win against our nemesis’ in the first meeting.

    Props to the entire team for adding something to the win: The entire team should win the Subway sub of the game award. I am really enjoying the players interchanging starting and game minutes while they continue to support each other. Enough cannot be said about the professionalism of Young, Williams, Farmar, Henry, Kaman (K-man), Meeks, Blake and especially Hill. I’m not sure what will become of these players after this year, but I am celebrating them as the best Lakers bench in years.

    After Blake hit the shot, Farmar displayed why he left five million on the table to return to the Lakers: He went on the floor screaming and waving his towel to the crowd with pride.

    Jodie Meeks has started to hit jumpers with a hand in his face! Call that the Kobe effect!

    As a starter Young looked far more disciplined than he did in the past, there were opportunities for him to take unadvised shots; yet, he resisted for the most part. I can even see that he’s grown as a defender. Giving credit where it’s due.

    Johnson is easily my favorite new Laker (Farmar doesn’t count because he’s an alumni). There is no reason for the Lakers to allow this guy to leave the team under no circumstance!

    Good pressure shot by Blake!!!!! Awesome!

  41. the other Stephen November 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    c. hearn, i think their friendship had something to with it as well. the last play (as far as they were concerned) came down to experience on one side, and lack of aggression on the other. lin is a good kid, and the flipside of that is that his competitive edge isn’t the kind that drives him to run roughshod over his opponents, and do almost anything to win (e.g., kobe, stockton, etc.) yet.

  42. KenOak,

    Understood .. But the point that I’m trying to make is that upon the return of Kobe, 1 of the things that I would still like to see is players still being aggressive in their approach to scoring. Particularly individuals such as X-Hen and Dub Johnson; although their history doesn’t amount to them being scorers (Young, for obvious reasons, doesn’t fit into this category and Farmar has balled with Kobe previously). They’ll need to continue looking for their shots (hopefully good ones) because we can’t expect Kobe to come back – and at any point this year – start looking and playing like Kobe from last season. I’ve seen it happen on too many occasions where teammates sit back and defer to Kobe when it comes to offense. Relying on Kobe to shoulder too much of the scoring burden. Upon Ron’s arrival a few years back, he even mentioned that, due to Kobe, he fell back in regards to seeking out his scoring opportunities and became passive. L.O., when he was on the scene, also stated something to this affect.

    So, yeah, it’s easy to say now that kats are not relying upon Kobe, but that’s because he’s not on the floor next to them. But let’s see what their approach will be once he’s suited up next to them on the hardwood. Will they remain aggressive or all of a sudden – mainly X-Hen and Dub Johnson – be in awe and become passive?

  43. The idea that Howard’s signing with Houston would somehow improve his post game by putting him around McHale and Olajuwon was always comical. Coaches and teammates can only help so much, but in the end it’s up to the player to make the effort and develop. Nothing I’ve seen from Dwight this year suggests his game has changed.

    The guy had Patrick Ewing — one of the best face-up centers the league has ever seen — as his coach in Orlando yet Dwight still has no face-up game of which to speak. You didn’t see Dwight absorb any of Kobe’s footwork, Pau’s low-post awareness… none of it.

    Like Shaq said last night, “This is his (10th) year in the league, and I don’t know what type of player he is… Sometimes he’s pick and roll; sometimes he’s posting up. The way he’s playing now, they don’t have a shot.”

    Kenny Smith on Howard: “He’s allowing himself to be average by not demanding the ball.”

    Those in Houston hope same can’t be said a year from now, two years from now, three years… time will tell. Thankfully, it’s not our problem anymore.

  44. Thankfully, it’s not our problem anymore

    Thats’ true. The Lakers have far more serious, long-term roster problems than the ones caused by having Howard, however.

    As to the McHale/Olajuwon thing, I don’t recall anyone suggesting that those guys being there would improve Howard’s post play. What I personally did say was that those guys being there would probably make Houston more attractive to Howard, as it in fact did, and as Howard himself later said.

  45. rr,
    Chris J wasn’t specifically referring to you. There are any number of ‘talking heads’ who said McHale/Olajuwon would help Howard adjust. Chris J was just pointing out he has had extremely good coaching in the past and, since that hasn’t sunk in, there is no reason to think good coaching in Houston will improve his game. As Shaq said, Dwight is 10yrs into his career and his game hasn’t materially improved on the offensive side.

    What Dwight is not, is a franchise player. That’s ok; Pau is also not a franchise player. The problem comes when he acts as if he thinks he is. Also, unlike Pau, he doesn’t seem to be able to work on his game. I don’t know how bright he is, but his BBIQ doesn’t seem to be very high or else he has no motivation – either way, I am glad we are looking at him in the rear view mirror and not for the next 5yrs. We may be sorry today, but the headache tomorrow could really kill us.

  46. Im still extatic about last night win i find it most ironic that the Lakers won bc the Rockets have Dwight and we dont and a game winning 3 on his face to boot, cant ask for more. Lets see which team shows up tonight, the Houston one or the Dallas one?About not reliying on Kobe well they have no choice but its obvious how much this team needs Kobe leadership on the court. They hovering about 500 like i predicted(lol) more like guessed. Need some consistency and i do expect the team to improve a lot if Kobe comes back close to what he was.

  47. I agree about using Johnson as a guy to defend top wings. That is the best chance for him to contribute consistently.

  48. Man, whole day it was all blackout here in the Philippines and I’m shocked, surprised, amazed by the WIN after I turned on my computer. This was the first thing in my mind.

    Wooh…

  49. I second that. Pretty good defender.

  50. RS- the Lakers have lost big leads because the coach leaves players on the floor when they are fatigued. He substitutes when the players on the floor have nothing left in the tank, and the other team has made a run. Or, he substitutes when momentum has swung to the other team. Coach has to be more cognizant of player personnel’s effectiveness on the floor. This is as much a part of coaching as running plays and inserting the right combination of players to compete against the opposing team. When he realizes this, the Lakers will hand out a few blow out games in the league.

    Look for the team to continue to improve as they start to get their stride.

  51. rr — I never said losing Dwight would address all that ails the Lakers. They’re nowhere close to being out of the woods. But from my point of view, I’ll take the other problems above those that come with Dwight. Personal preference.

    As to your, “I don’t recall anyone suggesting that those guys being there would improve Howard’s post play” remark, you must have missed Sports Illustrated’s 2013-14 NBA preview, among other stories on said tutelage and its supposed benefits.

    “At the first practice of training camp, Howard found himself bracketed in the paint by Olajuwon and McHale, a piano prodigy flanked on the bench by Beethoven and Chopin. “These players,” says lead assistant Kelvin Sampson, “don’t know how good they’ve got it.” In the past 15 months, Howard forced his way out of Orlando and Los Angeles, via trade and then free agency. If he can’t find contentment in Houston, with twin towers of support, he won’t find it anywhere.

    “How can we get Dwight better?” McHale says. “That’s what we talk about. If we did nothing, and he played the way he has his entire career, he’d still be the best big guy in the NBA. But if Hakeem and I can give him a couple more tools, and he can master those, what a complement that would be.”

    McHale and Olajuwon flew last month to Aspen, Colo., where Howard was spending three weeks on a self-imposed “blackout,” flying in a hot-air balloon, biking up the Maroon Bells and riding a white horse named Duke that he befriended. “Next time, the South of France,” Olajuwon cracked. During workouts at a local high school gym, and at dinners afterward, McHale and Olajuwon explained that Howard had grown too reliant on a power game. Because his upper body is so strong, he is able to manhandle many centers, though he is often two inches shorter.

    “He’s not 7’4″,” McHale says. “He’s not Yao Ming. Size is not a huge advantage for him. Just like Hakeem, his biggest advantage is speed. But he has to use it. It’s like having a car that goes 150 miles per hour and you always drive 35.”

    Howard has heard such critiques before, but it sounded different coming from McHale, with Olajuwon nodding next to him. “I could always just catch the ball, crab in the paint, take two dribbles, turn either way and finish with the hook,” Howard says. “It was easy, so that’s what I did.” It’s also what coaches advised him to do, the deliberate dribbles allowing him to identify double teams and pass out for three-pointers, the preferred shot in today’s NBA—especially with the Rockets, who were second in three-point attempts last year. Olajuwon watched Howard on television, baffled why he didn’t apply what they worked on in the summers. “You have the tools,” Olajuwon said. “You choose to go to what you know.”

  52. I loved the beautiful symmetry of the fact that Blak3 hit his shot over the outstretched arms of late rotating and slow-to-close-out Howard. That ending was pure Hollywood.

  53. As to your, “I don’t recall anyone suggesting that those guys being there would improve Howard’s post play”

    ___

    I meant anyone here; that is why I used the word recall. But I should have said here.

    As to the larger point, we won’t know for sure for about three-four years. But the basic problem with the anti-Howard argument is that there is nothing near a guarantee that the Lakers can get anyone almost as good, as good, or better, than he is any time in the foreseeable future. The best shots are probably Greg Monroe and Kevin Love.

  54. My response got hung up in mod so Craig W made my point before mine posted. He’s correct in saying I wasn’t referring to rr, or anyone on this site.

    With regard to “there is nothing near a guarantee that the Lakers can get anyone almost as good, as good, or better, than he is any time in the foreseeable future.”

    True. But for $22 million a year, fans/coaches/front office types would like someone who takes more than a dozen shots a game and seems to be with the program, chemistrywise. That hasn’t been Dwight’s forte of late.

    Losing Dwight left the Lakers with issues. Keeping him would have left other issues, too. Either way, die have been cast so we move forward with what we have and hope to see it improve.

    I’d love Kevin Love… that one may even be feasible if he wants out of Frozen Land badly enough.

  55. Losing Dwight left the Lakers with issues. Keeping him would have left other issues, too.

    The Lakers have no high-end prime or young talent, and fewer future draft picks than every organization in the game except Brooklyn. So I don’t really see dealing with Howard’s flaws as an equivalent situation in terms of issues.

    I get that people enjoyed the game last night; I enjoyed it, too. But as Craig himself suggested before the game, looking at it from the other angle, last night’s game doesn’t really affect the big picture analytically. It was just a fun moment for the Lakers and their fans.

    Love is arguably better than Howard now, he is younger than Howard, he is from LA, and he is playing in a cold-weather city on a team that has never contended in his time there. So he makes the most sense among the possible targets. But he is also two years away from free agency, assuming that he even opts out.